Yes, this is the electric chair, "Old Sparky", in which 361 prisoners were executed between 1924 and 1964. As shocking as that sounds, what's even worse is that it was built by inmates in the woodworking shop at the Huntsville Unit. Imagine building an electric chair that you or someone you knew might eventually be executed in!
"Old Sparky" is one of many prison system relics kept at the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville, TX. Huntsville is considered the capital punishment capital of the world, and the state prison system is the largest employer in town. In a place like that, you might expect a prison museum to glorify execution and exploitation of prisoners, but we were pleasantly surprised at how balanced the exhibits were.
There was a lot of information on the history of prisoner reform and inmates' rights, and, on the whole, the exhibits humanized the inmates instead of focusing on their role as
There were many examples of truly amazing arts and handicrafts made by inmates at the local prisons, including this 'Prisonopoly" set. Time is one thing prisoners have lots of, and some of them fill it by making beautiful things out of the materials they have access to, like this chess set carved from soap. Amazing! This person would have made an amazing artist if his life had taken a different course. Notice that the set contains prison guards and guard towers!
Other inmates had more dangerous but no less ingenious hobbies like turning ball-point pens into tattoo guns and eating utensils into weapons, as illustrated in the large contraband display. Forks are dangerous in the wrong hands!
The highlight, of course, was this reproduction of a prison cell, complete with see-through alarm clock (no hiding contraband in there!) and two bunks. It's a tiny space fore one person, let alone two. Prison is definitely not a place I intend to visit on my travels!